1977 Philadelphia Phillies
1977 Philadelphia Phillies / Franchise: Philadelphia Phillies / BR Team Page
Clinched Division: September 27, 1977, At Chicago Cubs
Managed by Danny Ozark
History, Comments, Contributions
The 1977 Philadelphia Phillies were the first edition of the team since 1950 that finished with the best regular-season record in the National League. It was also Philadelphia's second straight 100-victory season. Though the 1980 and 1983 editions of the team would go further, one would have to consider 1977 the acme of this Philadelphia "success cycle."
The team was substantially the same as the 1976 division champs. Free agency had cost them second baseman Dave Cash and first baseman Dick Allen, but netted them third baseman Richie Hebner from the Pittsburgh Pirates. With Mike Schmidt anchored at the hot corner, Hebner took Allen's job at first base. Ted Sizemore became the starter at second. Young Randy Lerch arrived from the AAA Oklahoma City 89ers to join the Phillies' starting rotation.
That rotation lost the first four games of the season; the Phillies didn't climb above .500 till mid-May. The mid-June acquisition of Bake McBride from the St. Louis Cardinals added a strong bat to the lineup, but the team had hitting to spare, led by outstanding seasons from Schmidt and Greg Luzinski. (Schmidt would finish the season with the lowest batting average among Phillies' regulars, a crisp .274.) The team's inconsistency in the early going was largely a matter of pitching; the bullpen was strong but overworked, because only the phenomenal Steve Carlton among the starters gave the Phillies a solid chance to win.
On June 25th, the Phillies were in fourth place and the Chicago Cubs were running away with the division, 8 1/2 games ahead of Philadelphia. The next day, veteran Jim Kaat and reliever Gene Garber combined to shut out the Cardinals, 2-0, as the Phillies began an 11-1 run, gaining 5 1/2 games on the Cubs.
At the end of July, the Phillies were still two games back. They dropped their first game in August but then reeled off 13 straight wins, including a four-game sweep of the Cubs at Wrigley Field. Young starter Larry Christenson was especially hot during this streak. They paused to lose 13-0 to the Montreal Expos on August 17th and then won six more in a row. By that point the Cubs had wilted and Philadelphia had opened up a considerable lead on the second-place Pirates. Christenson beat Chicago on September 27th to clinch the division title for the Phillies.
With the Big Red Machine just a memory, the Phillies saw a clear path to the pennant through the relatively weak Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLCS. The Phillies captured Game One in Los Angeles, 7-5. Veteran Jim Lonborg was pounded in Game 2, but the Phillies headed home with a split in the series. In Game 3, Garry Maddox drove in Hebner and scored on an error to give the Phillies a 5-3 lead - and that was their high-water mark. In the top of the 9th, as Phillies fans sat stunned, Dodger pinch-hitter Vic Davalillo nosed a weak two-out drag [bunt]] for an infield hit. The great pinch-hitter Manny Mota followed with a drive to left that Luzinski, who was inexplicably still in the game despite usually giving way to the much better fielder Jerry Martin whenever the Phillies had a late lead, could not catch. Two errors and a single off the body of Mike Schmidt later, the Phillies trailed 6-5, and went quietly in the bottom of the 9th. In the Game 4, Carlton was simply outpitched by Tommy John, and what was perhaps the best Phillies team ever had to settle for a mere division flag.
Awards and Honors
- All-Stars: Steve Carlton, Greg Luzinski and Mike Schmidt
- NL Cy Young Award: Steve Carlton
- NL Gold Glove: Jim Kaat (P), Garry Maddox (OF) and Mike Schmidt (3B)
- 2022 Philadelphia Phillies Media Guide, pg. 218
- Mitchell Nathanson: The Fall of the 1977 Phillies: How a Baseball team's Collapse Sank a City's Spirit, McFarland, Jefferson, NC, 2008.